Accounting. What am I doing in accounting?
My course choice made no sense. Like a Wall Street trader striding up to mount an unhappy bull at our rodeo.
I had registered at Okmulgee Tech without the benefit of academic counselling – or common sense. I knew nothing of bookkeeping, had no aptitude for it. Better judgment won out before my second class ended. The vocational school – an arm of Oklahoma State University – did offer other tracks. I returned to the catalog.
The printed word interested me and teletype included the word ‘type’. Working for a newspaper means no shortage of words. Nor did the name of my new chosen direction, Teletypesetter Perforator Operator.
The high school from which I recently graduated lacked size and, therefore, course options. I very much wanted to gain two skills – Spanish and typing. But administration said I could only choose one. Learn a second language or learn to type – but not both. My plight was bothersome but promptly resolved. I never learned Spanish.
My instructor sat at the glorified typewriter and introduced its features. A machine that yielded a stream of punctured tape as the typist pecked the keys. Combinations of the circled holes translated into letters, words and symbols. The coded tape fed into a big linotype machine. Molten lead formed imprints, cooled, took on ink, released the creation to the press room. . . Steps in a process ensuring paper boys had a product to deliver – the daily or weekly newspaper.
OK Jerry, give it a try.
Adjusting my chair I rested eight fingertips in their sequence atop familiar symbols. A S D F . . J K L ; (the right pinky paired itself up, as always, with the semi-colon). A good feeling settled in. Eight drifters returning to their common home. In pecking order.
Jerry, would you consider taking a job far from here?
The question was my first introduction to the notion my typing fling may spirit me to sights and places beyond. Both geographical and figurative – to kindred-spirits. To surprises. One of them wrecking me – for life. in a very good kind of way.
My training supervisor studied my face for a response. Obviously knowing something I didn’t.
Yes, I’d be happy to consider it, sir.
Well, a weekly newspaper called the Cody Enterprise – it’s in Wyoming – contacted us. I’m prepared to recommend you for the Operator position if you’re interested.
I would be glad for the opportunity. Yes. Thank you.
So, twenty months removed from an earlier Oklahoma departure, I again boarded a Denver-bound bus. Though in a much healthier frame of mind.
A new passenger with a telling weakness for drink stepped aboard in Pueblo, Colorado and seated himself next to me. Noting the Bible resting open on my lap he slurred an observation.
Oh! You’re readin’ the Bible. Good! His interest rose another level – as did his voice.
Are you a Christian? More direct.
Yes, sir, I am. I was a kid – sure of my faith but not sure of myself.
Wonderful! I am too. Then he announced it. I’m Pentecostal!
Electing not to fuel the visit by confirming our common faith tradition I offered, That’s nice. He sank contented into his seat and slept. In a moment I glanced his way. I wonder what’s led him to seek comfort, or joy, or escape through a substance in a bottle? A nudge of compassion stirred. I silently prayed God’s care over the random stranger next to me – my fellow-pentecostal.
North of Denver I squinted through a bus window. A passing car sported a red Wyoming license plate. On it I glimpsed a compelling image. A bucking bronco giving his all to dislodge from the saddle an equally-determined cowboy. Cheyenne boasted her Frontier Days. Laramie, her Jubilee Days – rodeos taking center stage at each.
Indeed, Wyomingites dubbed themselves the Cowboy State. Stretching myself out, I slid my feet beneath the seat ahead and let my chest pillow my chin. I was soon dreaming of my brother Tim and me. Of Bill, our horse clippity-clopping under us – to Okmulgee’s Rodeo Grounds. To the annual PowWow and Rodeo action.
By the time I stirred the bus had entered a land of breezy landscapes. The vehicle jostled under wind gusts as it navigated high desert near Casper. Wind River Canyon enthralled us – its rich blue waters snaking along canyon walls. Past Thermopolis the bus climbed to flatter plains, and finally our destination.
Soon we met with a sign along a city street. I chuckled to myself. Why should I be surprised?
Cody, Wyoming – Rodeo Capital of the World.
©2015 Jerry Lout